Just months after IIM-Calcutta appointed American citizen Anju Seth as its new director, the Home Ministry is learnt to have asked the HRD Ministry to clarify whether a foreign national, registered as an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), can head a central educational institution.
The Home Ministry’s letter mentions Seth’s selection for the top job.
Seth, who held the position of Pamplin Professor of Management at Virginia Tech in the US, is the first female head of the IIM and was appointed to the post in November 2018. The IIM Rules, notified less than a month after her appointment, make OCIs eligible for the director’s post.
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According to a Home Ministry order of December 2017, foreign nationals registered as OCI card-holders under The Citizenship Act, 1955, are eligible to be appointed as teachers in central educational institutions such as IITs, NITs, IIMs, central universities and IISERs.
Referring to this order, the letter to the HRD Ministry states that a director, in addition to an academic role, also enjoys administrative powers — it’s in this context that the clarification was sought.
When contacted on her mobile phone Tuesday, Seth asked The Indian Express to send queries to her official email address. Replying on the director’s behalf, Alok Chandra, chief administrative officer of IIM-Calcutta, confirmed that the institute’s director was an OCI card-holder.
Responding to the question on whether the government had raised any objections or asked questions regarding her citizenship at the time of her appointment, Chandra wrote: “We are not aware of such issue.”
Seth isn’t the first foreign national and OCI card-holder to head an IIM. Sushil Vachani, who was appointed director of IIM-Bangalore in June 2014, was also an American citizen and OCI card-holder. He had resigned from the post prematurely in 2016 citing personal reasons.
Referring to Vachani and the then IIM-Ahmedabad director Ashish Nanda, and their criticism of the draft IIM Bill, the then HRD minister Smriti Irani had told NDTV in 2015: “They are foreign citizens, both of them. The beauty in terms of tolerance of this government is that even a foreign citizen can call our free press, wax eloquent about government and system, tell us how our Parliament should legislate.”
Seth was selected by the IIM-Calcutta Board from a shortlist of three candidates. The other contenders were Jayant R Kale, who is a professor of finance at the Northeastern University, and Suresh Ramanathan, professor of marketing at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University.
Seth is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta (1978) and has a doctorate degree from the University of Michigan (1988). She joined Virginia Tech in 2008 and headed its department of management from 2008 to 2013.